At the cross, we are shown how heartbreaking our lack of unity really is. For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus was left completely alone. His disciples abandoned him and his Father in heaven turned his face away.
27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
In a culture that glorifies individualism, the call to live dependently on others seems atrocious, threatening our lust for autonomous glory. Paul is continuing his call to gospel unity by addressing the Philippian churches by one of their main identities.
Most English translations do not give justice to Paul’s language here. He says, “Only worthy of the gospel of Christ, live out your citizenship…”
Paul makes it clear that the way we live reveals where our true home is, and for gospel-people, the call is to live as if the kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven1. He presses this call even deeper by painting an image of war: soldiers striving side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a unified presence against evil.
How does the world respond to such gospel unity? Verse 28 shows us that it is the shoulder-to-shoulder unity for the faith of the gospel that pushes the enemy back and sheds light on his future. Where the people of God are citizens of heaven, those opposed to the gospel are headed for destruction. So, which one are you? Are you living as a citizen of heaven or a son of destruction?
The truth is that many of us who consider ourselves citizens of heaven live lives that look far more like our end is destruction. Do you spend more of your time and money putting roots down here or investing in eternal things? Does your life model a greater love for others than yourself in a way that your non-believing friends notice? We need help living like citizens of heaven.
Because of our individualism and failure to strive side-by-side for the sake of the gospel, God decided to fix this problem. He had the perfect plan, a rescue mission where all three persons of the Trinity would strive side-by-side to accomplish their unified purpose. This unified purpose to fix what we messed up would consist of a perfect unity that only the Trinity is capable of.
The Father chose to save a people and was committing himself to them. The Son chose to leave the comfort of heaven and become a citizen of this world and rescue his people. The Holy Spirit would apply the salvation necessary to these same people. Together, in perfect harmony, the Trinity was striving side-by-side for the common purpose of rescuing us.
The cross is the place where we see how heartbreaking our lack of unity really is. On the cross, for the first time in all of eternity, Jesus was left completely alone. Not only did his disciples abandon him, but his Father in heaven turned his face from him.
And because Jesus was forsaken for us, we never have to worry about being forsaken by God—ever!
Our God, in perfect harmony, has gone to the most drastic extremes necessary to fix our lack of unity, ultimately uniting us to himself.
Now, as redeemed sons and daughters of heaven, we can live and suffer as those unified to the Trinitarian God of peace. In doing so, we joyfully strive towards our true home, side-by-side for the faith of the gospel.
1 Matthew 6:10